25 Years

Kasey Taylor
5 min readAug 23, 2021
thankfully I’m not in this photo

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming so I can indulge in some nostalgia.

This very morning I had the notion: “Wow…has it really been twenty-five years?” I did some quick math in my head to determine it has really been twenty-five years. Twenty-five years ago I embarked on a road trip disguised as a missions trip for my church. What it actually was was were a handful of performances in churches designed to make a little extra money to improve our youth group building. I was 16 and all of the hidden shenanigans were lost on me. Instead it was a trip that would change my life.

That sounds too melodramatic. It would be more accurate to say it changed the course of my life.

First, the background. The short version hopefully. I was heavily involved in my youth group, Freshfire, at the time. I’d found my something where I could belong, be accepted, and see pretty girls all at the same time. Having discovered it, I chose to pursue every extracurricular activity they offered. It’s how I wound up on something called Illustrators of Christ. It was a mime team. You are reading that correctly. We put on white makeup and pantomimed to popular Christian songs. 25 years after the fact it sounds awful, but I swear it was cool at the time. Or cool enough. Or I convinced myself it was cool since I was involved. No matter.

In the spring of 1996 Illustrators of Christ performed in churches both in and not far from our hometown of Augusta, Georgia. We weren’t great, but we always seemed well-received. Our youth pastor got the bright idea to take the show on the road. Like a concert tour as though we were dc Talk or Audio Adrenaline or something. At the time about twenty kids came to practice and performed with the team. Only eight (four boys and four girls) wound up going on the tour.

We were each charged $500 for the privilege which adds up to about $4,000 cash to be used for the youth building. We were led to believe it would be used for our food, transportation, and lodging. I’m sure some of that money went to those things, however we often stayed in places for free and rarely ate out. Gas in those days was very cheap. So I imagine at least half of that money went toward building improvements. As far as I could tell, we didn’t care. We were just excited to get out of Augusta for a couple of weeks.

Before we could go we had to have a “boot camp” where we did calisthenics, team building exercises, and worked for free at the church. When I was young, I just thought I was being a good Christian soldier helping the church. What I was doing was allowing the church to keep paying the pastoral staff in a manner they were accustomed to. Instead of paying professionals, me and my teammates could do all the demolition, painting, and trash removal for gold bricks in heaven. We also had to write, learn, and practice our new mime performances during the boot camp. Later we would perform them for the church in sort of a test run for the road. In the middle of July we headed out.

The locations weren’t exotic by any means. Places like Marianna and Kissimmee in Florida and Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a grown man now I think about what a motley crew we were. The oldest person was a 24 year old. The next oldest was 19 years old. Two twelve year olds. A 17 year old boy and an 18 year old girl. Two fifteen year olds of the opposite sex. And another 14 year old. For the first three days of the trip there were no other adults. No adult women would be on the tour until four days after it began. It seems crazy. And it was. Where were our parents? They were cool with this? I guess none of us would be denied. I guess worse decisions have been blamed on religion before.

The trip was fun. It was what I imagine summer camp to be like. Nominal adult supervision, nominal freedom. The first weekend we did our little show a bunch. One church in Marianna, a juvenile facility for troubled boys in the same town, and the another church. Then we drove to Foley, Alabama to perform again that evening. Then we drove all the way to Kissimmee, Florida to perform at a youth group. After that we wouldn’t perform again for a while. We worked our way across the country to Oklahoma where we stayed on a ranch while we waited for our next performance. By this time one of our mom’s was there (not mine thank Jah) as well as our youth pastor’s wife.

After a few more performances in Oklahoma we began our long slog home. Returning home was depressing. Fun was over. Back to reality. School was starting soon. We stayed with strangers in Alabama and drove the rest of the way home the following day. The entire way the mom with us took a back seat to the pissing contest between a 19 year old and a 17 year old over who would be the next youth pastor. The rest of us were just witnesses to it.

When we got home, we performed at a “revival” event at some other church in Augusta. We crushed it. We felt like rockstars walking off without giving an encore the people were begging for. We were just kids miming out Carman songs, but those people ate it up. My dad and stepmom were in attendance and remarked about how much better we looked. Practice works I suppose. With one last performance at our home church Sunday evening, the tour was finished.

In so many ways this trip impacted my life. For the positive and for the negative. Now, more than ever, I was determined to get out of Augusta and stay out. I didn’t care where ultimately. As I come up on sixteen years in New York City and living outside of Georgia longer than I ever lived there I would say I succeeded. I count that as a positive. On this trip I also learned how to be a shitty person. Learned how to exclude others who weren’t in my circle. I learned loyalty to a fault, rather than just plain loyalty. I learned I could weaponize this against others and protect myself while insulating myself.

A few years later I’d follow that youth pastor to Kissimmee, Florida. He was still my friend. In other ways, he was my cult leader. I found out a few years ago he molested one of the boys on this trip in the late 90's. We haven’t spoken in a few years. I expected him to be the best man at my wedding. Instead he wasn’t invited. I’m still a shitty person sometimes. But I’m trying to be a little less shitty every day. I still carry the memories of that trip with me. Some are hilarious and make me laugh. Others make me cringe. I wish I had done better, but I was still a kid.

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Kasey Taylor

Here to talk UGA Football lovingly. FU football realistically. And other things SEC/College Football related.